Using Your Whine Factor

Nan S. Russell

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Brian's work was exceptional. Still, as his boss, I rarely offered him additional responsibilities, never thought of promoting him or selecting him for a critical project. Why? His whine factor got in the way.


He was quick to complain to anyone who'd listen how much work was on his plate, or how hard or how late he worked. His whine factor was a protective shield that insured he didn't get more work to do. But, it also shielded him from getting the opportunity filled assignments, more interesting work, and the highest pay raises.


Stephanie was a different story. She was masterful at weaving vivid details with a precision that explained exactly why the expected outcome didn't happen. This week it centered on a miscommunication, last week it was the delayed delivery, or the reduced advertising, an incompetent supplier or a staff illness. Every story was accurate; every reason plausible; every explanation justifiable; always a good reason why she couldn't deliver the promised quality, precision or timeliness.


As her boss, it took me time to realize that Stephanie's accountability decreased each time her whine factor increased. As she became more entrenched in offering reasons why something didn't happen, she became less personally involved in the actual results.


I've seen the whine factor derail projects and people in my twenty years in management. Whining shifts a mindset from can do to can't do, allows potholes to become sink holes, turns challenges to complaints and reframes opportunities into woe is me.


You can use your own whine factor as a barometer to keep you on track. If the factor is high, be alerted that your actions are, most likely, becoming less accountable. That should signal you to tune into what you can personally do to control, adjust or correct the current course so you can deliver the expected results. I think that point is worth repeating because it differentiates performance in significant ways. If you want to control the outcome, you'll need to get your hands a bit calloused along the way.


Learning to listen to your whine factor is a helpful self-feedback mechanism to guide you towards greater accountability and winning at working behaviors. Less whine means more accountability. Higher accountability typically means better results. And better results are what most of us are after.


(c) 2004 Nan S. Russell.   All rights reserved.

Sign up to receive Nan's free biweekly eColumn at Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B. A. from Stanford University and M. A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a writer, columnist, small business owner, and on-line instructor. Contact Nan at .



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